Warriors run out of Oracle on opening night

When the Warriors offense dominated during the preseason, the league-wide response was, “it’s only the preseason.”

After Golden State’s regular season debut, their fans’ narrative has shifted to, “it’s only the first game.”

Steve Kerr mentioned how the Warriors wouldn’t be concerned with records this year, only winning a championship.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Warriors’ locker room at Oracle Arena.

Well they certainly don’t have to worry about starting 24-0 again, as the Warriors got demolished in their much-anticipated regular season debut 129-100 by the Spurs Tuesday.

Kerr said he talked with the team about being prepared to look ugly early:

“I think our guys were embarrassed tonight, I know I was. I think we have a lot to work on and a lot to get better with and a lot of games to come.”

It’s safe to say few in the Bay Area envisioned this first game going this way, with the Spurs absolutely dominating the entire game.

But it was an old story for the Warriors, giving up offensive rebounds, 20 in total, and turning the ball over 16 times.

The off shooting night didn’t help — an atypical 46 percent from the field and 21 percent from three-point range — but even if you shoot lights out, giving the opposing team that many more possessions will almost always equal a loss.

Kerr said the Spurs really exposed some of the Warriors’ weaknesses:

“We cannot get out rebounded like that, and lose the turnover battle and get beat at the free throw line. They are going to kill us if we do that every game. We know it’s going to take some time, that was obvious tonight.”

The game started out not badly for the Dubs, as they exposed the Spurs’ marquee signing this offseason, Pau Gasol early, who just couldn’t cover the 3-point line.

Twice, Stephen Curry pulled up and nailed a triple on Gasol in the first quarter. Both times Greg Popovich angrily called timeout and chewed out his center.

Popovich benching the Spaniard was really the critical moment of the game, as it allowed LaMarcus Aldridge to shift to center, and second-year forward Jonathon Simmons to play some small ball 4.

All Simmons did was score 15 points on 6-for-6 shooting with three 3’s in the first half. Though he finished with 20 points for the game, the damage was already done.

Draymond Green said that allowing Simmons to do that to them was just unacceptable:

“We let Simmons come in destroy us in the first half. No disrespect to him but you can’t let guys like that come off the bench and get 20. It’s hard to win like that, I don’t care where you are, home or away.”

Add to that Kawhi Leonard erupting for 35 points and Aldridge adding 26 of his own, and it was just way too much for the Warriors to overcome.

A positive for the Warriors, if there is one, is that Kevin Durant looked very comfortable as he scored at least 20 points for his 65th-consecutive regular season game.

Durant said he actually had to calm himself down from being so anxious to get on the court:

“Everybody was [nervous]. It’s the first game and you just want to play well. That’s just part of being in the NBA. I was excited to play, sometimes you can be overly excited and I think I had to calm down as soon as the second quarter started.”

The problem was he got almost no help. Curry and Green pitched in with 26 and 18 respectively, but Klay Thompson finished with just 11 points on 5-for-13 shooting.

And a retooled bench that looked so good during the preseason managed only 16 points — with most of that in garbage time.

They were so bad that Kerr — who loves to go at least 10 to 11 deep — played only a nine-man rotation for the entire first half, with only David West and Andre Iguodala getting an extended run.

Iguodala was the only bench player to play at least 15 minutes, a dynamic that is not sustainable if the Warriors want to be fresher than they were last year in the playoffs.

This was not an encouraging start for a team that will have a bullseye painted on their backs night in and night out. But lucky for them, it’s only one game.

Up Next

The Warriors look to rebound from the disheartening loss and take to the road for the rest of the month. They travel to New Orleans to take on Anthony Davis and the Pelicans Friday, then to Phoenix for a Sunday matchup with the Suns.

Notes

Curry extended his consecutive regular season games with at least one 3-pointer to 153 games in a row. … Tuesday night is the first NBA opening night since 1996 that Tim Duncan was not in the Spurs’ starting lineup. … With their loss, the Warriors opening night winning streak is snapped after four straight years.


Curtis Uemura is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @CUemura on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Warriors basketball.